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Beth Ahabah Happenings

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the U.S. Army Signal Corps photo from Oct. 29, 1942

Hidden Treasure

One part of the inhouse written Religious School curriculum this year at Congregation Beth Ahabah is Ritual Objects.

The Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives (BAMA) is collaborating with the congregation and brings objects from its collection to display and enhance the lesson each week.

This Ark is in the Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives’ collection that belonged to Rabbi Sidney Lefkowitz.

On Feb. 6 the ritual objects were the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) and the Aron Ha-B’rit (the ark of the Covenant). The students could visit the two Aron Kodesh on campus: one in the sanctuary and one in the chapel.

BAMA did not find the Ark of the Covenant in its storeroom but were surprised to find another portable ark. Small portable arks like this one were supplied by to military chaplains by their particular religious movements, and were used to conduct services in the field.

This discovery led to some quick research by both Religious School and BAMA staff. This portable ark had belonged to Rabbi Sidney Lefkowitz who was the assistant Rabbi at Beth Ahabah from 1933 to 1944. In 1944, he, like hundreds of other American Rabbis, enlisted. He served as an Army chaplain in the European Theater during the Second World War.

Rabbi Lefkowitz landed at Omaha Beach, and was in six major battles, including the Battle of Bulge.  He also conducted the first broadcast service for allied Jewish GIs on German soil. It was held at Aachen near a destroyed Synagogue on Oct. 26, 1944. for the advancing allied army and was broadcast by NBC to all of the United States, and then rebroadcast back in to Germany.

The service was conducted in the middle of the concrete tank barriers known as the “Dragon’s Teeth”  of the Siegfried Line. Artillery from the nearby battle can be heard on the recordings.  Much more about this historic broadcast, including photographs and audio recordings, can be found at

https://thechaplainkit.com/chaplains/20th-century-wars/ww-2/european-theater-2/jewish-service-broadcast-from-aachen-germany/

According to his obituary, Rabbi Lefkowitz was also the first Jewish chaplain to participate in the liberation of a concentration camp. He helped liberate Germany’s Nordhausen Camp on April 11, 1945.

Rabbi Lefkowitz received a Bronze Star for his World War II service and was awarded a European Theater ribbon with six battle stars. The intrepid Rabbi Lefkowitz married Miss Dorothy Sycle of Richmond in 1938, and after the war served Ahavath Chesed, a Reform Congregation in Jacksonville Fla., where he died in 1997.

The Ark was display and video played when students, staff, and parents visited the mini exhibit in the lobby during religious school adding a fascinating and moving element to the weekly ritual object lesson plan.

For more details on Beth Ahabah, visit www.bethahabah.org.

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